A Death in the RSS Family- Content Aggregators Sing Their Swan Songs

Posted: April 19, 2011 in Industry Research, Media, Mobile Technology, Search, Social Media, Technology, Tools/Gadgets
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September 22, 2010- http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474978538816

Hear that? It’s the sound of the content aggregator death knell. On October 1st, popular web-based RSS reader and news aggregator Bloglines, run by the team at Ask.com, will discontinue service. When asked why, Ask’s team reported “that social media sites like Twitter and Facebook killed it.”

And Bloglines is only the first. Other aggregators such as Google Reader, Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon are sure to be next. According to Hitwise, “visits to Google Reader are down 27 percent year-over-year.” The New York Times recently reported “a more pivotal reason that Digg is falling behind, analysts say, is that users are simply spending more time on Facebook and Twitter than they are on Digg.”

How did this happen? Is it truly impossible that content aggregation sites such as Google Reader, StumbleUpon, Digg and ReddIt can not exist side-by-side with the type of social news aggregation offered by Facebook and Twitter? What does this mean for RSS? RSS, which stands for Real Simple Syndication, is a protocol which helps push website updates to readers around the world so they don’t have to search for new content or endlessly hit refresh on a favorite web page. In 2005 RSS was a game changer. Today? Not so much.

According to the Bloglines message about its own end-date, “the Internet has undergone a major evolution. The real-time information RSS was so astute at delivering (primarily, blog feeds) is now gained through conversations, and consuming this information has become a social experience…being locked in an RSS reader makes less and less sense to people as Twitter and Facebook dominate real-time information flow. Today RSS is the enabling technology – the infrastructure, the delivery system.”

As a 2009 NeilsenWire also reported, part of this trend comes from the fact that blogs and news sites are no longer the endgame news tool, our friends are. “Socializers trust what their friends have to say and social media acts as an information filtration tool…If your friend creates or links to the content, then you are more likely to believe it and like it. And this thought plays out in the data.”

Does Mark Zuckerberg know that his company has driven content aggregators to the grave? Undoubtedly, yes. A recent New Yorker profile quoted Zuck as saying, “It’s like hardwired into us in a deeper way: you really want to know what’s going on with the people around you.” In fact, Facebook’s Open Graph feature allows users to see which articles their Facebook friends have read, shared, and liked. “Eventually,” the New Yorker observed, “the company hopes that users will read articles, visit restaurants, and watch movies based on what their Facebook friends have recommended, not, say, based on a page that Google’s algorithm sends them to.”

Some argue that content aggregators, or RSS readers, were always destined for the internet graveyard simply because they were too complicated and allowed users to become completely overwhelmed by the sheer bulk of information that was being pushed to them. One thing is for sure, if content aggregators don’t find a way to better integrate with, or at least successfully co-exist with social networking offerings like Facebook and Twitter, they will soon be relegated to the ever-growing category of “old news.”


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